The Ministry of Home Affairs has finally allowed rich employers in the Gulf to send back employees but the poor migrants still suffer
Stranded Indian workers in foreign countries, especially from the Arab Gulf, can return as the Indian government has agreed to allow chartered flights arranged by the workers’ employers, a government order from the Ministry of Home Affairs reveals.
Thousands of Indians have lost their job and are stranded in different parts of the world, especially in the Arab Gulf, following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The order reads that “stranded Indian labourers is hereby permitted through charter flight arranged by their employing companies in accordance with the Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for movement of Indian nationals stranded outside the country, dated 05.05.2020, with modifications.”
The modifications state that, travel to India can be by special chartered flights to be arranged by employers or by hiring firms.
“Such flights would be scheduled after full consultations between Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation and the concerned states to which such flight are being proposed,” the order reads.
The order also states that the workers returning should be in quarantine for 14 days on arrival in India at their own cost or at the cost of the employer.
The Lede has learnt that many companies in the Arab Gulf who have laid off their workers had approached the Indian embassies requesting to repatriate their workers in chartered flights at their cost.
A worker in an automobile company in Oman confirming the same told The Lede that his company officials are looking for chartered flights to repatriate them.
“Around 1000 workers have been terminated from the company,” the Indian worker who also has lost his job last week told The Lede.
The workers were told to tender their "voluntary" resignation.
Meanwhile, a source in the Gulf aviation industry told The Lede that they had been trying to operate chartered flights for all but had not yet got any green signal from the MEA.
“This new order is for those fired workers. I know that many Indian companies are firing workers. These fired workers would become a liability for those companies. So, they are just getting rid of the workers,” the source said.
The source added that still there is a scope for operation of chartered flights for all.
“But it’s not happening,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rafeek Ravuther, an Indian migrant rights activist, told The Lede that this is a surprising move.
“Yes, it is a good one. But there are thousands stranded on the streets in the Arab Gulf who don’t belong to any rich employer. What will happen to them?” he asked.
“I know personally that there are many Indian socio-cultural organisations who have tried to arrange chartered flights to repatriate needy Indians. But so far, they have not got permission,” Rafeek added.
According to Rafeek, the situation is worsening in the Arab Gulf and the Indian government should act more proactively to rescue Indians.
As per Friday’s data, there are some 160,000 COVID-19 positive cases with 776 deaths.
Last week, The Lede had reported that more than 50 Keralites have died due to COVID-19 in the Arab Gulf.
Since the first week of May, the Indian government is operating repatriation flights and ships under the banner Vande Bharat Mission to bring back some 40,000 Indians from all over the world, mainly from the Arab Gulf, in two phases.
There are 90 lakh Indians working in the six Arab Gulf countries. The majority of Indians in the Arab Gulf countries are low paid workers.
Last week, the International Labour Organization (ILO) had said that nearly half the world's workers are at immediate risk of losing their jobs.
According to the report, some 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy - almost half of the global labour force, and those at the most vulnerable end of the employment ladder - are in danger of losing their livelihoods as COVID-19 outbreak is slowing down the global economy.
Unfortunately, with a dramatic fall in the price of oil and the global economy slowing down, the Arab Gulf countries are also crashing.
Plunging oil prices and the deepening fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic is a double blow to the Arab Gulf governments as they seek to protect their energy-dependent economies.
After the 2014 oil price crash, the Arab Gulf countries introduced indirect taxes in an attempt to save the economy.
However, at that time, oil prices crashed. But now too oil prices are taking a dizzying dive and other non-oil sectors have also come to an halt due to COVID-19 led lockdowns.
A study released by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce released on Thursday reveals that 70% of Dubai businesses fear they could go bust in the next six months due to the financial problems brought about by the Coronavirus crisis.
Dubai's Chamber of Commerce carried out a survey of the businesses in the Emirate in April to judge the economic impact of lockdowns enacted during the coronavirus crisis and released the bleak predictions for the coming six months.
Around 1228 CEOs from Dubai businesses had taken part in the survey, conducted between April 16 and 22.